Understanding Dental Abscesses

Dentist Blog

A dental abscess is a collection of pus caused by a bacterial infection. The location of the pus build-up is dependent on the type of abscess you have. Pus gathers in the centre of your tooth if you have a periapical abscess, which is caused by tooth decay. As your tooth decays, bacteria travel into the pulpy layer of your inner tooth and multiply quickly. Periapical abscesses can cause tooth loss if left untreated.

If you have a collection of pus between your gum line and one of your teeth, you have a periodontal abscess. This type of abscess is typically seen in those with gum disease. As gum disease progresses, the soft gum tissue begins to recede and leaves a gap between your teeth and gums. This gap provides the perfect environment for bacteria to thrive.

If left untreated, both types of abscess can cause infection in your sinus cavities. Here's an overview of the symptoms and treatment options for dental abscesses:


Symptoms of both periapical and periodontal abscesses include:

  • Pain in or around the affected tooth, which may be more pronounced when you bite down
  • Reddening and inflammation of your gum at the site of the abscess
  • Your tooth may begin to loosen and feel wobbly
  • A high temperature


The first stage of treating either type of abscess is to drain the pus, which can provide relief from pain. Your dentist will do this by puncturing a periapical abscess and drilling a small hole into a tooth infected with a periodontal abscess. Once the pus has been drained, you will require additional treatment to prevent the abscess from returning. Your dentist may carry out this treatment on the same day or ask you to take a course of antibiotics to prevent the infection spreading and return for treatment the following week.

Treating a Periapical Abscess

A periapical abscess requires root canal treatment to remove damaged tooth pulp and the remaining bacteria. Your dentist will enter your tooth through the hole they made to drain the pus and use a small file to remove the tooth pulp. Removal of the pulp won't damage your tooth, but you may find that tooth is more sensitive to hot and cold drinks after the procedure. The dentist will then clean out your tooth with disinfectant to remove bacteria and any food debris that's made its way in there before sealing the hole.

Treating A Periodontal Abscess

A periodontal abscess can return if the space between your gum line and tooth is not closed over. Your dentist will gently file the affected tooth at your gum line to encourage the healing and regeneration process to start. They will monitor your tooth for a few weeks to determine if your gum tissue is pulling closer to the affected tooth on its own, which it usually will. However, you will require oral surgery to close the gap if it does not heal on its own. The surgical procedure, known as gum contouring, is generally only necessary in those with a weakened immune system.

The longer you leave an abscess untreated, the more likely you are to require a tooth extraction due to the extent of the infection and damage to your tooth. If you suspect you have an abscess, schedule a check-up with your dentist as soon as possible.


14 May 2015

Dental Checkups: Preparing for Your Checkup

Hi! My name is Sarah, and as a busy professional, I understand the importance of making the most of my time. That includes everything from having productive working lunches to making the most of my dental checkups. I have created this blog to help you maximise your dental checkups. In these posts, you can learn how to prepare for your checkup, which questions to ask during your checkup and more. I am also going to have posts explaining why checkups are critical to your dental health as well as the health of your entire body. Happy reading, and thanks for visiting my blog!